Fettuccine pasta is a popular Italian pasta shape which can be found all over the world in markets and restaurants. The long ribbons of pasta are suitable for a range of sauces, although they are most famously used in fettuccine Alfredo. In addition to being available fresh and dried in stores, fettuccine pasta can also easily be made at home. A pasta machine will greatly simplify this task, although it is possible to roll the dough out by hand.
In Italian, fettuccine means “little ribbons,” and the pasta does indeed look like a pile of ribbons on the plate. The pasta may also be spelled fettuccini, depending on the producer, and it is closely related to tagliatelle, another form of ribbon pasta. Traditional fettuccine pasta comes in thick ribbons which are robust enough to hold light to medium sauces, especially tomato and cream sauces by convention. Chunky sauces may not fare as well, since the chunks tend to settle to the bottom of the dish unless they can be readily picked up with the pasta fork.
Dried fettuccine pasta is usually made from durum wheat, so it is thick and chewy when cooked properly. The pasta is usually cooked al dente, so that the resilience of undercooked wheat is retained. Since the ribbons of pasta have a tendency to catch and stick together, it is an excellent idea to toss freshly cooked fettuccine pasta with butter or olive oil for lubrication. This is especially true with al dente pasta, which can become gluey.
Fresh fettuccine pasta has a much lighter, eggier flavor. It is especially popular in the spring, and at fine restaurants which make their own pasta. Some producers pride themselves on making formidably long ribbons of fettuccine. In this case, a single ribbon of pasta can fill up an entire fork with ease. Usually, a pasta spoon is served with fettuccine to make it easier to eat. Ingredients such as dried spinach may be added to fresh pasta for a unique color and hint of flavor.
Both fresh and dried versions are used to make fettuccine Alfredo, a quintessential dish which layers fettuccine pasta in a thick, creamy sauce. To make the dish, cooks toss freshly cooked pasta with heavy cream and a mixture of cheeses such as Parmesan and Romano. Fettuccine Alfredo is typically finished with lavish amounts of fresh ground salt and pepper. Vegetables or chicken may be added to the dish as well, in some cases.